The Europeans discovered the North & South Americas during the last decade of 15th Century. Very little was known about this ‘new world’ before. Between 1492 and 1503 AD, Christopher Columbus discovered West Indies, Central America and northern South America for Spain. John Cabot was the first person to reach North America in 1497. It is estimated he discovered Newfoundland (Canada) for England. A Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares discovered Brazil in 1500 AD. Modern day United States of America (USA) was initially discovered by a Spanish explorer Juan Ponce in 1513 when he arrived modern day Florida.
This article is mostly about the History of the United States of America (USA) rather than the continents North & South Americas.
Period before Discovery
It is not exactly known that when the Native Americans initially settled in Americas and modern-day USA. But it is estimated that they start arriving USA (including Alaska) about 30,000 years ago during the Ice Age from Siberia through land bridge which connected Eurasia and America. This migration continued for the next 20,000 years and it ended around 10,000 years ago when the land bridge disappeared due to rise in sea water level. Now the native Indians of America called themselves American Indians and are present mostly in Western USA.
As stated above, the Spanish reached Florida in 1513. Then they quickly managed to reach most of southern USA. On the other hand, the Dutch formed their colony New Netherland (today’s New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut etc) during 17th Century, which was later seized by British in 1670s. The English formed New England (northeastern USA) while the colony of France was named New France (eastern USA and adjacent Canada).
After the North American theatre of Seven Years War (1756-1763), France transferred New France to Britain and Louisiana to Spain. Spain ceded Florida to Britain while Britain gave Cuba to Spain.
Independence of USA
The British left their American colonies away from the crown after their captured during 17th and early 18th century and they were largely sovereign and develop their own political systems different from the UK. But after British victory against French and Indians in 1763, the British government started to impose taxes on the Americans which were against the previous attitude. This sparked anger among Americans as they want to enjoy the previous sovereignty.
In 1773, the American demonstrators destroyed the entire shipment of tea by throwing the tea in Boston Harbor. It forced the British to end self-rule in Massachusetts colony and they took control by sending Army there. This was the beginning of war as the patriots (American revolutionaries) in Massachusetts and other colonies prepared for fight.
In 1775, all the 13 British colonies started the war as they drove British officials out of their colonies and sent their militiamen to besiege the British at Boston. Political leader George Washington was appointed commander of the newly formed Continental Army. Minority in all the states supported British and they were called loyalists.
The Americans drove British out of Boston in March 1776 but their campaign on Quebec (Canada) failed and the British manage to take full control over it. The Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776. It is celebrated as ‘Independence Day’ in USA.
Major battles started after American declaration of independence. During 1776-77, the British captured New York but the Americans were victorious in New Jersey after an initial defeat. The America later also captured the Upstate New York in 1777 during Saratoga Campaign. This victory also helped them to get the support from the French Empire. Later they were also joined by Netherlands and Spain. The British also could not succeeded during Philadelphia Campaign (1777-78).
After failure in the North, the British then tried to capture the southern colonies of Georgia, Virginia, N & S Carolina and East Florida from 1775-82. They were met with strong resistance from the Americans and their ally France. The British finally lost this campaign in 1782 at Yorktown and practically it was the end of British rule in America. Through Treaty of Paris (1783), the independence of USA was accepted by the British. They were given all land south of Canada and east of the Mississippi River except British Florida which was handed over to Spain.
In 1789, the Continental Congress adopted the Constitution of United States and replaced it with the Articles of Confederation (1777) which was an agreement between 13 founder states of USA. This constitution strengthens the federal government with monopoly on taxation and defense. This is also the current constitution of United States. George Washington was selected as the first President of the USA under this constitution.
In 1803, USA purchased Louisiana from France. USA paid total $15 million for this region whose total area is 2,144,000Km2.This area is west to the 13 states and it includes total or parts of modern 15 US states including all of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma; most of North Dakota and South Dakota; and parts of Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.
In June 1812, UK and USA were engaged in the War of 1812 that lasted till February 1815. Native Indian Americans were ally of UK in this war and Britain tried to establish an Indian State in North America. Though, there wasn’t any change in the boundaries but USA decisively beaten the Indians and killed their leader in the Battle of the Thames (1813). The land battles were fought in Eastern and Central North America while navel battles were fought in Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed by the Congress. Through this act, the federal government forcibly removed southeastern Indian tribes to modern day Oklahoma. Many people died and others suffered miserably due to this deportation and this removal is known as Trail of Tears.
In the 19th Century, there was a widely recognized belief in the USA that the American settlers will expand throughout the whole continent. It was known as Manifest Destiny. Under this belief, the United States tried to expand their rule westward which was the cause of American-Mexican War (1846—48). Due to raids of Indians earlier political instability in Mexico, United States won the war relatively easily. Through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Feb 1848), Americans occupied large area including today’s Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. US also paid $15 million to Mexico under the agreement.
In April 1861, American Civil War started between the Northern and Southern States. The Northern States were known as Union States while the 11 Southern States were named the Confederate States. The reason for war was the difference about abolition or continuation of slavery. The Northern States were against slavery while Southern States support slavery. The South declared their secession from USA and formed Confederate States of America but the Union didn't recognize the secession and a bloody war started between the two opponents. The war continued for over 4 years in which more than 700,000 soldiers from both sides and many civilians were killed. It is the deadliest war in the American history so far. In the end, the Union won the war in May 1865. It led to the dissolution of Confederate States and end of slavery. Union President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated five days after the surrender of confederacy. During the reconstruction era (1863-77), the federal government one by one took control of the Confederacy states in Southern USA.
In April 1898, a war erupted between Spanish Empire and USA in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific. Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines and Guam were the location of this Spanish-American war. The war was fought against the Spanish rule in these areas in which revolutionaries were helped by the Americans. The Americans and their allies were victorious in this war. Through Treaty of Paris (August 1898), the Americans achieved control over Guam, Philippines and Puerto Rico and also temporary control over Cuba. This war was major factor behind the collapse of Spanish Empire.
The American rule over Philippines was not warmly welcomed and the revolutionaries in Philippines started Philippine-American war in June 1899. The war continued for over three years and ended in favor of USA. Thousands of soldiers from both the sides were killed and more than 200,000 civilians of Philippines also lost their lives in this conflict. The war ended in July 1902. The Moro Rebellion continued till 1913 in the Southern Philippine. The Americans were again victorious there.
This post is up to the 19th Century. For more information about American History, you can visit the posts of 20th Century and 21st Century.